Oil slips on economic worries, but still set for strong weekly gain

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  • Both Brent and U.S. crude futures slipped.
  • Despite Friday’s price falls, Brent and WTI are set for weekly gains of more than 7 and 8 percent respectively.

Oil pumpjacks in the Permian Basin oil field are getting to work as crude oil prices gain.

Spencer Platt | Getty Images
Oil pumpjacks in the Permian Basin oil field are getting to work as crude oil prices gain.

Oil slipped on Friday amid concerns over the outlook for the global economy, but output cuts agreed by major exporters underpinned crude prices and kept markets on track for a strong weekly climb.

International Brent crude futures were at $61.55 per barrel at 0333 GMT, down 13 cents, or 0.2 percent, from their last close.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures dropped 7 cents, or 0.1 percent, to $52.52 per barrel.

Traders said the declines came on lingering concerns over the health of the global economy.

“If we experience an economic slowdown, crude will underperform due to its correlation to growth,” said Hue Frame, portfolio manager at Frame Funds in Sydney.

Most analysts have downgraded their global economic growth forecasts below 3 percent for 2019, with some even fearing a looming recession amid trade disputes and spiralling debt.

For now, however, there is hope that the trade war between Washington and Beijing may be resolved as global markets, including oil, took heart from talks between the two sides this week.

Despite Friday’s price falls, Brent and WTI are set for weekly gains of more than 7 and 8 percent respectively.

Beyond global economics, oil markets are receiving support from supply cuts led by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) aimed at reining in a glut that emerged in the second-half of 2018.

A key reason for the emerging glut was the United States where crude oil production soared by more than 2 million barrels per day (bpd) in 2018 to a record 11.7 million bpd.

Consultancy JBC Energy this week said it was likely that U.S. crude oil production was already “significantly above 12 million bpd” by January 2019.

Given the overall supply and demand balance, Swiss bank Julius Baer said it was “price neutral” in its oil forecast.

“We see the oil market as well balanced into the foreseeable future, as the petro-nations make space for further U.S. shale production growth,” said Norbert Ruecker, head of commodity research at the bank.

Oil falls 1 percent on swelling US supply, concerns on US-China trade talks

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  • Both U.S. and Brent crude futures slipped around 1 percent.
  • Both oil benchmarks had risen around 5 percent the previous day, as financial markets around the world surged on the hopes that Washington and Beijing may soon be able to end their ongoing trade dispute.

Oil refinery and storage Australia

Jason Reed | Reuters

Oil prices fell by about 1 percent on Thursday on swelling U.S. supply and amid a cautious reaction to trade talks between the United States and China, the world’s two largest oil consumers, that finished without concrete details to ending their dispute.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil futures were at $51.80 per barrel at 0432 GMT, down 56 cents, or 1.1 percent, from their last settlement.

International Brent crude futures were down 0.9 percent, or 57 cents, at $60.87 per barrel.

Both oil benchmarks rose by around 5 percent the previous day as financial markets around the world surged on the hopes that Washington and Beijing may soon be able to end their trade dispute, soothing fears of an all-out trade war between the two biggest economies and its possible impact on global growth.

By Thursday, however, the positive feelings ebbed because of a lack of a details on the talks despite a warm statement form China on the outcome, and financial markets took a breather from the rally.

Vandana Hari of consultancy Vanda Insights in Singapore said in a note that oil prices dropped “as optimism fuelled by the U.S.-China trade talks earlier in the week appeared to have run its course and official statements after the conclusion of three days of negotiations, while indicating modest progress, lacked details.”

Meanwhile, U.S. bank Morgan Stanley cut its 2019 oil price forecasts by more than 10 percent on Wednesday, pointing to “weakening economic growth expectations” and rising oil supply from especially from the United States as reasons for their lower price forecast.

Morgan Stanley now expects Brent to average $61 a barrel this year, down from a previous estimate of $69 a barrel, and U.S. crude to average $54 per barrel, against a prior forecast of $60.

The main source of new supply is the United States, where crude oil production remained at a record 11.7 million barrels per day (bpd) in the week ending Jan. 4, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) said on Wednesday.

That has resulted in swelling fuel inventories.

Gasoline stocks rose 8.1 million barrels, to 248.1 million barrels, marking the largest weekly rise since December 2016, the EIA said. Distillate stocks swelled by 10.6 million barrels, to 140.04 million barrels.

Although crude stocks dipped by 1.7 million barrels, to 439.74 million barrels, they remained above their five-year seasonal average of 435 million barrels.

The surge in U.S. crude production runs counter to efforts led by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to cut supply aimed at reining an emerging glut.

“Balancing the market would require OPEC discipline to continue well into 2020,” Morgan Stanley said.

Oil prices surge on hopes of successful US-China trade talks

CNBC

  • Both Brent and U.S. crude futures saw gains.
  • Both crude price benchmarks had already gained more than 2 percent in the previous session.

Oil tanker

Jean-Paul Pelissier | Reuters

Oil prices rose on Wednesday, extending gains from the previous session on hopes that Washington and Beijing can resolve a trade dispute that has triggered a global economic slowdown.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil futures were at $50.29 per barrel as at 0131, up 51 cents, or 1 percent from their last settlement. It was the first time this year that WTI has topped $50 a barrel.

International Brent crude futures were up 42 cents, or 0.7 percent, at $59.14 per barrel.

Both crude price benchmarks had already gained more than 2 percent in the previous session.

“Crude continues to extend gains as early reports from Beijing regarding trade negotiations are fueling optimism around successful trade talks between the U.S. and China,” said Stephen Innes, head of trading for Asia/Pacific at futures brokerage Oanda in Singapore.

“After a dreadful December for risk markets, Crude oil continues to catch a positive vibe,” he added.

The world’s two biggest economies will continue trade talks in Beijing for an unscheduled third day on Wednesday, U.S. officials said, amid signs of progress on issues including purchases of U.S. farm and energy commodities and increased U.S. access to China’s markets.

State newspaper China Daily said on Wednesday that Beijing is keen to put an end to its trade dispute with the United States, but that it will not make any “unreasonable concessions” and that any agreement must involve compromise on both sides.

If no deal is reached by March 2, Trump has said he will proceed with raising tariffs to 25 percent from 10 percent on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports at a time when China’s economy is slowing significantly.

Oil prices have also been receiving support from supply cuts started at the end of 2018 by a group of producers around the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) as well as non-OPEC member Russia.

“Crude oil prices continued to march higher, with investors becoming increasingly confident that the OPEC cuts would tighten the market,” ANZ bank said.

Oil prices rise on trade talk optimism, OPEC cuts

CNBC

  • Both Brent and U.S. crude futures saw gains of at least 0.7 percent.
  • Asian stock markets rose as investors hope Washington and Beijing will reach some sort of agreement.

Oil prices rose on Tuesday on hopes that U.S.-Chinese talks in Beijing would bring a halt to trade disputes between the world’s biggest economies, while OPEC-led supply cuts tightened markets.

International Brent crude futures were at $57.77 per barrel at 0113 GMT, up 44 cents, or 0.8 percent from their last close.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil futures were at $48.85 per barrel, up 33 cents, or 0.7 percent.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said late on Monday that Beijing and Washington could reach a trade deal that “we can live with” as dozens of officials from the world’s two largest economies held talks in a bid to end their trade dispute that has roiled global markets since last year.

Asian stock markets rose as investors hope Washington and Beijing will reach some sort of agreement.

Despite optimism around the talks in Beijing, some analysts warned that the relationship between Washington and Beijing remained on shaky grounds, and that tensions could flare up again soon.

“We remain concerned about the world’s most important bilateral relationship,” political risk consultancy Eurasia Group said in its 2019 outlook.

“The U.S. political establishment believes engagement with Beijing is no longer working, and it’s embracing an openly confrontational approach … (and) rising nationalist sentiment makes it unlikely that Beijing will ignore U.S. provocations,” Eurasia Group said.

Beyond politics, oil markets are being supported by supply cuts started late last year by a group of producers around the Middle East-dominated Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) as well as non-OPEC member Russia.

“Crude oil prices have benefited from OPEC production cuts and steadying equities markets,” said Mithun Fernando, investment analyst at Australia’s Rivkin Securities.

Looming over the OPEC-led cuts, however, is a surge in U.S. oil supply, driven by a steep rise in onshore shale oil drilling and production.

As a result, U.S. crude oil production rose by a whopping 2 million barrels per day (bpd) last year to a world record 11.7 million bpd.

With drilling activity still high, most analysts expect U.S. oil production to rise further this year.

Consultancy JBC Energy said it was likely that U.S. crude oil production was already “significantly above 12 million bpd” by early January.

Oil rises on US-China trade talks, supply cuts

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  • Both Brent and U.S. crude futures gained more than 1 percent.
  • Financial markets were being lifted on Monday on expectations that face-to-face trade negotiations between delegates from Washington and Beijing, due to start on Monday, would lead to an easing in tensions between the two biggest economies in the world.

Oil refinery and storage Australia

Jason Reed | Reuters

Oil prices rose by more than 1 percent on Monday, lifted by optimism that talks could soon resolve the trade war between the United States and China, while supply cuts by major producers also supported the market.

Brent crude futures were at $57.75 per barrel at 0404 GMT, up 69 cents, or 1.2 percent, from their last close.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil futures were at $48.67 per barrel, up 71 cents, or 1.5 percent.

Financial markets were riding a relief rally on Monday on expectations that face-to-face trade negotiations between delegates from Washington and Beijing, due to start on Monday, would lead to an easing in tensions between the two biggest economies in the world.

The United States and Beijing have been locked in an escalating trade spat since early 2018, raising import tariffs on each other’s goods. The dispute has weighed on economic growth.

Goldman Sachs said in a note on Monday it had downgraded its average Brent crude oil forecast for 2019 from $70 per barrel to $62.50 a barrel because of “the strongest macro headwinds since 2015.”

J.P. Morgan, another U.S. bank, said in a note late last week that “the 3 percent global growth pace we have been anticipating for the next two quarters looks increasingly challenging.

The bank also said that “bond and commodity markets appear to be pricing in on average close to a 60 percent chance of a U.S. recession over the coming year compared to a 40 percent chance by our economists and 27 percent chance by the consensus.”

Despite the likelihood of a slowdown, crude future prices were being supported by supply cuts started late last year by a group of producers around the Middle East-dominated Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) as well as non-OPEC Russia.

OPEC oil supply fell in December by 460,000 barrels per day (bpd), to 32.68 million bpd, a Reuters survey found last week, led by cuts from top exporter Saudi Arabia.

Potentially undermining OPEC’s efforts is swelling U.S. oil supply.

U.S. crude oil production stayed at a record 11.7 million bpd in the last week of 2018, according to weekly data by the Energy Information Administration (EIA) released on Friday.

That makes the United States the world’s biggest oil producer ahead of Russia and Saudi Arabia.

Record output is also swelling U.S. fuel stockpiles.

Crude oil inventories rose by 7,000 barrels in the week ending Dec. 28, to 441.42 million barrels.

Distillate and gasoline stocks, however, rose by a whopping 9.5 million and 6.9 million barrels, to 119.9 million and 240 million barrels respectively, the EIA data showed.

“The U.S. supply glut remains a bearish concern,” said Stephen Innes, head of trading for Asia-Pacific at futures brokerage Oanda in Singapore.